Pro Tools hardware
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Pro Tools hardware The Pro Tools System Digidesign’s Pro Tools system has always included a software application and various hardware components. The hardware consists of one or more cards for the computer along with one or more audio interfaces, optional interfaces for sync or MIDI, and an optional eight-channel remotely controllable microphone preamplifier. The main software application is a complete recording, editing, processing, and mixing environment that includes a multi-track waveform editor, a mixing console emulation, plug-in signal processors, and virtual instruments and controls to let you record and playback audio from hard disk. The range of plug-ins available for Pro Tools surpasses that available for any other platform due to the large numbers of Development Partners that Digidesign has always encouraged. More or less every kind of processor that you might wish for is available either from Digidesign or from a third-party developer. The Pro Tools software also lets you record and edit MIDI and offers separate MIDI Editor and Score Editor windows. It also comes with a comprehensive collection of signal processing plug-ins and virtual instruments, so it competes very effectively with Logic, Digital Performer, Sonar, Cubase, and Nuendo. As you are about to discover, Pro Tools|HD systems are possibly the most flexible audio workstations that you can buy. You can easily create a customized system, choosing how many DSP cards, how many channels of input and output and so forth – expanding as your needs grow. If you want hands-on mixing, you can add a control surface such as Digidesign’s C|24 or the Mackie Control Universal. And if a medium- or large-format mixing console is more appropriate, you could go for one of the ICON integrated consoles. Pro Tools|HD features a 48-bit mixing architecture that provides more than sufficient of the headroom and ‘foot-room’ that is needed to make sure that the highest quality is maintained throughout the production process. The hardware interfaces provide excellent quality to suit most needs and even higher-quality third-party interfaces are available from Apogee and Prism.
Pro Tools|HD Hardware Unlike host-only systems that rely on the host computer’s CPU for all processing, Pro Tools|HD’s DSP cards are designed to handle the majority of the system’s audio processing tasks, offloading that work from the computer so that the computer is left with plenty of processing power still available to run additional plug-ins or applications. Pro Tools DSP cards are available for both PCI-based and PCIe-based computers: Digidesign introduced the first generation of Pro Tools|HD systems for computers using the PCI bus sometime around the second quarter of 2002. Three basic configurations were made available that used the HD Core card either on its own or together with one or two HD Process cards. Around the end of 2003, the HD Process card was superceded by the HD Accel card. This featured almost twice the DSP power as the HD Process cards and supported more complex plug-in algorithms and increased plug-in counts. HD Accel systems always included an HD Core Card along with one or more HD Accel cards.
NOTE Various TDM plug-ins were developed that only run on the HD Accel cards, that is not on HD1 systems.
In December 2005 the HD AccelCore card for the new PCIe bus was introduced for use with the Intel Macs that had become available. Although there are some technical differences between the PCI Express (PCIe) and PCI versions of the Pro Tools|HD system, for most users they both provide very similar DSP power. The PCIe HD Accel card uses a combination of the chip types used on the Core and Accel PCI cards. This gives the PCIe version more processing power than a PCI Core, and a little less than a PCI Accel. In larger systems (HD 3 and greater), this difference is insignificant. In smaller systems (HD 1, HD 2) there are some noticeable differences, but for many typical sessions using a combination of different algorithms, the differences are minor.
NOTE The PCIe version of the HD 1 system can run Accel-only plug-ins – which is not the case with the PCI version of the HD1.
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The different ways that different plug-ins use the DSP chips on the different cards, and the way that some plug-ins are optimized for the latest software and hardware while others are not, tends to even out the differences between the systems – even though PCIe HD 1 and HD 2 systems do have more MIPS (millions of instructions per second) than their PCI counterparts. According to Digidesign, ‘Users of HD 1 for PCIe may see a signifi cant performance gain versus HD 1 for PCI systems, particularly if they tend to use many instances of just a few different plug-ins and if those plug-ins have been optimized for Pro Tools 7. However, with HD 2 and HD 3, there is a much smaller difference in power between the systems. In fact, with systems larger than HD 3, there is no advantage to running on PCIe versus PCI other than slot-type compatibility’.
Session Compatibility According to Digidesign, ‘All sessions created with PCI versions of HD 1, HD 2, and HD 3 systems will open on their PCIe counterpart. Track counts are not affected, as PCIe Accel cards have three Presto DSPs each – enough to run a full six DSP engine with a Pro Tools|HD 2 system for PCIe. (The sole exception to this is a session requiring several instances of Antares Mic Modeler, which is currently the only Presto-only plugin.) However, it is possible to create sessions on PCIe-based HD 1 systems that cannot be opened on a PCI-based HD 1 system’.
The Future Digidesign says that it ‘will continue to make both the PCI and PCIe versions of HD cards and we expect to do so as long as demand for both types exists. Our intent is to support the widest possible range of computers. Windows computers with multiple PCIe slots will be qualified for use when they become widely available’.
Pro Tools|HD Core Systems Pro Tools|HD Core systems include a card (or cards) containing digital signal processor (DSP) ‘chips’ and a bundle of software. These Core systems differ according to the number of cards that you get, the number of input and output channels, and the number of software plug-ins included.
Pro Tools|HD 1 uses the HD Core card and supports up to 32 channels of I/O. Pro Tools|HD 2 Accel includes the HD Core card and an HD Accel card, offering support for 64 channels of I/O. Pro Tools|HD 3 Accel features the HD Core card and two HD Accel cards, supporting up to 96 channels of I/O. At 44.1/48 kHz, Pro Tools|HD 1 systems will playback or record up to 96 simultaneous audio tracks. Expanded Pro Tools|HD systems, Pro Tools HD 2 and HD 3, can playback or record up to 128 mono voices, while Pro Tools |HD Accel 2 and Accel 3 systems can playback or record up to 192 simultaneous mono audio tracks. Another specification is Total Voiceable Tracks. This refers to the maximum number of audio tracks that can share the available voices on your system. Mono tracks take up one voice while Stereo and multichannel tracks, as you might expect, take up one voice per channel. Expanded Pro Tools|HD and HD|Accel systems with two or more cards offer the greatest number of ‘Voiceable’ Tracks, with 224 available at 44.1/48 kHz, while Pro Tools HD1 systems can only manage a maximum of 112.
Figure A5.1 Pro Tools HD Accel card.
All Core systems support sample rates up to 192 kHz; include TDM II (Digidesign’s advanced bus architecture that provides support for extremely large mixing configurations); and support Digidesign’s DigiLink interface.
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DigiLink allows HD Core and HD Process cards to be connected across lengths of up to 100 feet – although the 100-foot cables only support up to 96 kHz sample rates.
NOTE All Core systems require that you have at least one Digidesign HD audio interface connected before you can use them. These are supplied separately so that you can choose whichever interface suits you best.
HD 1 Systems Pro Tools|HD 1 systems use a single core DSP card – either an original HD Core PCI card or an Accel Core PCIe card. The card has 9 DSP chips for powering the mix engine and TDM plug-ins, supports sample-rates up to 192 kHz and supports up to 32 channels of I/O. You can use up to a total of 112 audio tracks of which 96 can be played back simultaneously at 44.1/48 kHz. As you increase the sample rate, the number of simultaneously playable tracks decreases to 48 at 96 kHz and to 24 at 192 kHz. HD 1 systems also offer up to 160 mono or stereo auxiliary inputs, up to 128 instrument tracks, 256 MIDI tracks, and 128 internal mix buses. Along with the Pro Tools HD software and its standard DigiRack plug-ins, the system also includes the Pro Tools HDpack plug-in bundle, the Pro Tools Ignition Pack 2 Pro collection, various free Bomb Factory plug-ins, and the Xpand! sample-playback/synthesizer – totaling more than 40 processing plugins, virtual instruments, and compatible applications.
HD 2 Accel Systems The Pro Tools|HD 2 Accel system uses two dedicated PCI or PCIe DSP cards (either one PCI HD Core card and one PCI HD Accel card or one PCIe Accel Core card and one PCIe HD Accel card). This system has 18 DSP chips for powering the mix engine and TDM plug-ins and supports up to 64 channels of I/O. You can use up to a total of 256 audio tracks of which 192 can be played back simultaneously at 44.1/48 kHz. As you increase the sample-rate, the number of simultaneously playable tracks decreases to 96 at 96 kHz and 36 at 192 kHz. HD 2 Accel systems also offer up to 160 mono or stereo auxiliary inputs, up to 128 instrument tracks, 256 MIDI tracks, and 128 internal mix buses.
Along with the Pro Tools HD software and its standard DigiRack plug-ins, the system also includes the Pro Tools HDpack plug-in bundle, the Pro Tools Ignition Pack 2 Pro collection, various free Bomb Factory plug-ins and the Xpand! sample-playback/synthesizer – totaling more than 50 processing plugins, virtual instruments, and compatible applications.
HD3 Accel Systems The Pro Tools|HD 3 Accel system uses three dedicated PCI or PCIe DSP cards (either one PCI HD Core card and two PCI HD Accel cards or one PCIe Accel Core card and two PCIe HD Accel cards). This system has 27 DSP chips for powering the mix engine and TDM plug-ins and supports up to 96 channels of I/O. You can use up to a total of 256 audio tracks of which 192 can be played back simultaneously at 44.1/48 kHz. As you increase the sample rate, the number of simultaneously playable tracks decreases to 96 at 96 kHz and 36 at 192 kHz. HD 3 Accel systems also offer up to 160 mono or stereo auxiliary inputs, up to 128 instrument tracks, 256 MIDI tracks, and 128 internal mix buses. Along with the Pro Tools HD software and its standard DigiRack plug-ins, the system also includes the Pro Tools HDpack plug-in bundle, the Pro Tools Ignition Pack 2 Pro collection, various free Bomb Factory plug-ins, and the Xpand! sample-playback/synthesizer. Pro Tools|HD 3 Accel systems are supplied with the largest number of Digidesign and Digidesign Development Partner effects and instrument plug-ins as part of the free HDpack collection – with a total of more than 60 processing plugins, virtual instruments, and compatible applications.
Expanded Pro Tools|HD Accel Systems You are limited to a maximum of three Pro Tools cards in current qualified host computers. To cater for larger studio setups, Digidesign offers expanded Pro Tools|HD Accel systems that can use PCI Core and Accel cards in up to an HD 6 configuration. These use a single PCI or PCIe Host card to connect to the Digidesign Expansion|HD chassis – a 4U rackmount unit capable of housing up to six Digidesign PCI DSP cards. A fully expanded system has 54 DSP chips for powering the mix engine and TDM plug-ins and supports up to 160 channels of I/O. Otherwise the specifications are the same as for HD3 Accel systems.
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NOTE Users of expanded PCI systems can upgrade their computers to newer, faster models without the need to change their Pro Tools HD cards – they can just buy a new PCIe Host card and continue to use their Pro Tools HD PCI cards in the Expansion|HD chassis.
Pro Tools|HD Interfaces Digidesign’s range of Pro Tools|HD interfaces has been accepted around the world for use in professional studios. They all do what they claim to do ‘on the tin’, and they do it well, using low-jitter internal clocks and offering excellent technical specifications that compare very well with those of their competitors. Nevertheless, you may still want to consider adding a Sync I/O to your system to provide a high-quality Master clock source, or you could even add a higherquality third-party clock source. For example, Prism and Apogee both feature extremely high-quality clock sources within their A/D converters, and standalone converters are available such as the Aardvark Aardsync II or the Mutec Smart Clock.
TIP The best clock source to use while recording audio through A/D converters is almost always the internal clock in the converters – whose clock signal has to travel the least distance.
192 I/O The top-of-the-range interface is the 192 I/O, which features 24-bit and up to 192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion. The A/D converters offer a 120 dB dynamic range while the D/A converters offer 118 dB. Sample rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz ±10% are supported.
NOTE One of the most important features of the 192 I/O is that it offers switchable, real-time sample rate conversion on digital inputs on the 192 Digital card, so you can input digital signals at any sample rate and it will convert these to the session sample rate.
The basic 192 I/O supports up to 16 simultaneous channels of analogue and digital I/O. The standard interface has two 25-way D-sub connectors on the rear panel providing 16 channels of balanced analogue inputs either at +4 dBu or at –10 dBV, depending on which of the two connectors you use. A single 25-way D-sub connector provides 16 channels of balanced analogue output. The digital I/O bay is occupied by a 25-way D-sub connector that provides eight channels of AES/EBU I/O, a second 25-way D-sub connector for eight channels of TDIF I/O, and a pair of 8-way ADAT optical input and output connectors. A pair of XLR connectors provides two channels of AES/EBU I/O and a pair of RCA/Phono connectors provides two channels of S/PDIF I/O. There is also a pair of optical two-channel S/PDIF I/O connectors. Two pairs of BNC connectors are available to provide loop sync and external clock (Word 1x and Slave Clock 256x) input/output. Additional ports include an Expansion Port that allows for direct connection of another 192 I/O or 96 I/O and a Legacy Peripheral port. The 192 I/O has one empty I/O bay that can be used to add more inputs or outputs. To expand the analogue I/O capacity, you can add either a 192 AD card, providing eight more analogue input channels, or the 192 DA card, which gives you eight additional analogue output channels. The 192 I/O can also be fitted with the 192 Digital card, which adds a further eight channels of AES/ EBU, TDIF, and ADAT I/O.
TIP If the session sample rate is 88.2 kHz or higher, ADAT and TDIF input sources can still be used with Digidesign’s 192 I/O, but the sample-rate conversion option must be enabled using the Hardware dialog from the Setups menu. If you fully expand the 192 I/O, it supports a total of 50 channels of I/O, including the 16 basic analogue channels, the 24 digital I/O channels, the 8 additional I/O channels, and the 2-channel digital I/O. A neat feature provided for the analogue inputs, the Soft-Clip Limiter, allows you to record higher levels onto disk so that you get punchier, hotter recordings. Figure A5.2 192 I/O front.
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Figure A5.3 192 I/I rear.
192 Digital I/O If you don’t need analogue I/O, the 192 Digital I/O features a wide range of digital I/O options, including up to sixteen channels of AES/EBU, TDIF, and ADAT I/O, along with S/PDIF I/O.
NOTE The 192 Digital I/O also has switchable, real-time sample rate conversion on digital inputs to allow input of digital signals at any sample rate.
This interface supports up to 16 simultaneous channels of AES/EBU I/O at 96 kHz or up to 8 simultaneous channels of AES/EBU I/O at 192 kHz. The rear panel has two bays filled with digital I/O connectors. Each bay has a 25-way D-sub connector for AES/EBU I/O, a 25-way D-sub connector for TDIF I/O, and a pair of optical connectors for ADAT I/O. Just like the 192 I/O, a pair of XLR connectors provides two channels of AES/EBU I/O and a pair of RCA/Phono connectors provides two channels of S/PDIF I/O. There is also a pair of optical two-channel S/PDIF I/O connectors. Two pairs of BNC connectors are available to provide loop sync and external clock (Word 1x and Slave Clock 256x) input/ output. Additional ports include an Expansion Port that allows for direct connection of another 192 I/O or 96 I/O and a Legacy Peripheral port.
NOTE You cannot use all of the possible I/O connections at the same time – they are provided to allow flexibility when connecting to the different types of digital equipment that you may wish to use.
Figure A5.4 192 Digital I/O front.
Figure A5.5 192 Digital I/O rear.
96 I/O The 96 I/O is an affordable 16-channel audio interface for Pro Tools|HD systems that features a versatile selection of I/O options, including eight channels of high-definition analogue I/O via 1/4” TRS jacks and eight channels of ADAT optical I/O, plus two channels of AES/EBU and S/PDIF I/O, and Word Clock I/O. The A/D converters offer a 115 dB dynamic range while the D/A converters offer 114 dB.
NOTE The 96 I/O audio interface does not have any sample rate conversion capability, so the ADAT port will always go offline, thereby preventing you from using it, with sample rates above 48 kHz.
Figure A5.6 96 I/O front.
Figure A5.7 96 I/O rear.
96i I/O The 96i I/O provides 16 analogue inputs to enable you to easily connect keyboards, samplers, effects, and other line-level equipment to your Pro Tools system. Its 16 analogue inputs provide balanced or unbalanced connections using tip-ring-sleeve (TRS) 1/4” connectors. A 24-bit capable S/PDIF port allows
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you to connect DAT recorders, CD players, and other digital recording devices. The A/D converters offer a 111 dB dynamic range while the D/A converters offer 113 dB. Six-step software-adjustable level controls are provided for inputs 1–4, with two-step software-adjustable level controls provided for inputs 5-16. Outputs are software-switchable between +4 dBu and –10 dBV. This unit also has two pairs of BNC connectors for loop sync and Word clock input/output and an Expansion Port to connect additional units.
NOTE The 96i I/O doesn’t have sample rate conversion, it doesn’t have AES/EBU or ADAT I/O, and it doesn’t have a Legacy Port.
Figure A5.8 96i I/O front.
Figure A5.9 96i I/O rear.
Pro Tools|HD Peripherals PRE The PRE is an eight-channel remotely controllable microphone preamplifier unit. It contains eight separate, matched-transistor, hybrid microphone preamplifier circuits. You can connect almost any type of input signal including microphones via XLR inputs and line or direct instrument (DI) level inputs via 1/4” jacks to any of the eight channels. Each channel includes a high-pass filter, a phase reverse switch, ‘48V’ phantom power, and a ‘ −18’ dB pad. You can control any of its settings remotely using the Pro Tools software or any of the Digidesign control surfaces – so you can position the PRE anywhere within reasonable distance of your main Pro Tools system, such as out in a studio area
close to your audio sources. The PRE can also be used as a stand-alone device and can be controlled remotely using any standard MIDI controller for non-Pro Tools applications. To connect PRE to your Pro Tools system, you need to hook up the MIDI connections to allow remote control and feed the audio from Pre into a suitable Pro Tools audio interface via PRE’s DB-25 connector.
NOTE You can plug PRE directly into a 192 I/O with ease, using a DB-25 to DB-25 cable and connectors. However, if you have another interface, such as the 96 I/O, you will need a cable that has a DB-25 connector on one end and TRS jacks on the other end.
Figure A5.10 Digidesign PRE 8-channel microphone preamplifier front.
Figure A5.11 Digidesign PRE 8-channel microphone preamplifier rear.
SYNC I/O If you need to work to picture, with film or video, you will need a suitable synchronizer to take sync signals from the film or video equipment and use these to generate a Word Clock to synchronize your digital audio equipment. Digidesign offers just such a box, the SYNC I/O, which allows near sampleaccurate synchronization to time code or bi-phase/tach signals. This 192 kHzcapable device generates a low-jitter Word Clock that provides extremely stable clock signals for any digital system such as Pro Tools|HD. The SYNC I/O supports all the industry-standard clock sources and time code formats, including the most widely used pull-up/pull-down rates for film and video. It has two 9-pin ports for use with the Digidesign MachineControl option. It
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also has AES/EBU clock I/O; video reference in/thru; and video program in/out connectors. Figure A5.12 SYNC I/O front.
Figure A5.13 SYNC I/O rear.
MIDI I/O Digidesign also offers a 10-way multi-port MIDI interface, the appropriately named MIDI I/O. This has ten MIDI inputs and ten MIDI outputs, each of which can carry 16 MIDI channels independently for a total of 160 MIDI channels. The MIDI I/O connects to your computer via a self-powered USB connection and includes support for Digidesign’s MIDI Time-Stamping technology, which guarantees excellent timing accuracy and precision. Ports 9 and 10 are mirrored on the front panel for convenience and Input 1 can be patched to all outputs in Hardware Thru Mode for stand-alone operation. A hardware ‘thru’ mode allows you to patch any number of inputs to any number of outputs without using the computer – enabling the unit to also function as a MIDI patchbay. Figure A5.14 MIDI I/O front.
Figure A5.15 MIDI I/O rear.
Legacy Interfaces The Legacy peripheral port on the 192 I/O, 192 Digital I/O and 96 I/O interfaces allows you to connect any of the following audio interfaces to your HD system: the 888|24, the 882|20, the 24-bit ADAT Bridge I/O, the original 20-bit ADAT Bridge I/O, or the 1622 I/O.
NOTE You cannot use the 888 I/O or the 882 I/O with HD systems.
There are some restrictions when using the Legacy Peripheral port. The biggest of these is that you can only work on sessions at up to 48 kHz. At higher sample rates, the Legacy port ceases to function. Also, the maximum number of Legacy peripherals that you can hook up to an HD system is eight – and for this you would need to have four HD-series audio interfaces with four 16-channel Peripheral Cable Adapters (‘Y’ cables).
Third-Party Interfaces Although the Pro Tools HD interfaces offer very high quality, some people prefer to pay the extra for the very highest quality that money can buy. Two companies in parrticular, PrismSound and Apogee, offer interfaces that directly connect to Pro Tools HD systems. These interfaces can be used instead of the standard Digidesign interfaces or in combination with these.
PrismSound www.prismsound.com Having carried out a series of comparative tests of all the leading converters, my top recommendation is the ADA-8XR, made by PrismSound – one of the UK’s leading converter manufacturers. Figure A5.16 PrismSound ADA-8XR.
The modular multi-channel, 24-bit 192kHz-capable ADA-8XR provides A/D and D/A conversion and various digital interfaces with a stereo monitor mix output in digital and analogue formats. The ADA-8XR can be configured using plug-in modules to suit a wide variety of applications. For example, it can be a 16-channel AD converter, a 16-channel DA converter or an 8-channel
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AD/DA converter. Digital modules are also available for interfacing to a variety of formats from AES/EBU and FireWire to Pro Tools HD – so it can be used with most popular digital audio workstation software, including Logic Pro, Cubase, Nuendo, and Pro Tools. Figure A5.17 ADA-8XR front panel.
PrismSound offers four popular configurations for Pro Tools HD systems – while other configurations are possible. The 8C-STD-HD has 8 analogue inputs, 8 analogue outputs; the 8C-STD-HD-AES has 8 analogue inputs, 8 analogue outputs, and 8 AES3 inputs and outputs; the 8C-STD-HD-16AD has 16 analogue inputs; and the 8C-STD-HD-16DA has 16 analogue outputs.
Figure A5.18 ADA-8XR rear panel.
The 8C-STD-HD-AES configuration is similar to a Digidesign 192 I/O interface, offering a mix of analogue and digital input and output. It is possible to configure a pair of 8C-STD-HD ADA-8XRs to emulate a single 192 I/O – but with 16 analogue inputs and outputs. If a pair of 8C-STD-HD-AES ADA-8XRs is used instead, the digital outputs appear in parallel with the analogue outputs, and the digital inputs can be selected instead of the analogue inputs on a per-channel basis. Two such pairs can be accommodated on a single Pro Tools|HD Core or Process card. The 16AD and 16DA ADA-8XR configurations are ideal for users who need more analogue inputs than outputs, or vice-versa. For use with an analogue summing mixer, for example, you could use a pair of the 8C-STD-HD-16DA configurations to provide 32 analogue output channels – connecting these to a single Pro Tools|HD Core or Process card.
If you want to capture the highest quality of audio, the ADA-8XR makes an excellent choice whether you are recording vocals, single instruments, drums or orchestra, or providing multiple outputs for external analogue summing. The ADA-8 also allows conversion between its various interface formats, for example, between Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) systems such as Pro Tools, or between AES and DSD.
Apogee www.apogeedigital.com Apogee, one of the USA’s leading converter manufacturers, also offers a range of products that can interface with Pro Tools, including the AD-16X and DA-16X, the Rosetta 800 and Rosetta 200. Figure A5.19 Apogee AD-16X and DA-16X.
With up to 192k standard sample rates, the 16-channel AD-16X and DA-16X converters both use Apogee’s C777 digital clocking process, developed with Apogee’s advanced Direct Digital Synthesis technology and DSP-based digital filtering. Using a stable, crystal based digital PLL for clocking, the AD-16X and DA-16X both offer very low-jitter performance – helping to keep the sound quality high throughout the production process. The AD-16X lets you convert analogue audio coming in at line level from a mixing console or other analogue source into digital audio. It features Apogee’s proprietary SoftLimit analogue peak limiter, which helps to keep recording levels high while avoiding clipping by allowing the user to capture an additional 4–6 dB of level without ‘overs’. The DA-16X lets you convert from the digital world back into analogue audio to feed into analogue mixers or recorders or to use for high-quality monitoring and mastering purposes. The DA-16X features Apogee’s proprietary UV22 HR dither technology that is used for reducing the word-length of a high-resolution digital signal to 16 bits for CD mastering – while preserving 24-bit detail.
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NOTE It is claimed that eight out of ten hit records in the US are mastered using Apogee’s UV22HR technology and that UV22HR can also be used to produce dramatically improved Internet and computer audio content without increased file sizes or data rates.
The ROSETTA 800 gives you eight channels of 24-bit AD/DA conversion at sample rates of up to 192k along with Apogee’s SoftLimit, UV22HR, and advanced Intelliclock features – providing a more affordable set of converters to suit project studios. Figure A5.20 Apogee Rosetta 800.
The ROSETTA 200 has similar features but with just two channels.
Figure A5.21 Apogee Rosetta 200.
I like to think of Apogee converters as being the converters to choose for rock and pop as opposed to classical and jazz (for which PrismSound converters are highly recommended), although there are plenty of people who might think the opposite – it can be a very subjective matter.
ICON Integrated Consoles Digidesign’s ICON consoles combine a mixing console work surface with a Pro Tools|HD system and an XMON monitoring and communications system so that you can buy a complete studio system from the one source. ICON systems can handle every aspect of a project – from recording, editing, processing,
and mixing to combining audio and video – at the highest quality with up to 24-bit/192 kHz audio in up to 7.1 surround format. ICON consoles allow access to every session element, independently of the on-screen Pro Tools software interface. Advanced automation features such as Match, Join and Glide further streamline the mixing process, allowing operators to focus on their mix without having to worry about managing automation or missing a move. What’s more, all automation data stays tied to its corresponding audio, enabling mixers to move audio without losing any automation data. ICON offers automation capabilities that surpass even the most advanced automation packages available with other consoles. Everything in the Pro Tools environment can be automated, giving you full dynamic control and absolute recall of every session element, from track volume, mute, and panning to all plug-in parameters. And with ICON, you’re not locked into dedicated, built-in EQ and dynamics processors. You have access to the industry’s largest collection of plug-in effects. Emulations of vintage analogue hardware units and meticulous re-creations of familiar console EQs and dynamics processors, such as the Sony Oxford plug-ins, let you work from a familiar sonic palette. You can expand your processing power and scale your system by adding DSP cards and an expansion chassis, building a customized system using the various combinations of additional audio, video, and MIDI interfaces, remotecontrollable mic preamps, and synchronization, machine control, session interchange, and delivery options. ICON with D-Control also features an inline console monitor emulation mode for control of input and monitor levels from a single channel strip. The flagship system features the large-format D-Control work-surface integrated with a Pro Tools|HD Accel system and your choice of the various Pro Tools|HD interfaces and peripherals. Smaller systems can be configured around the mediumformat D-Command work-surface.
ICON D-Control The flagship D-Control work-surface is an impressive-looking mixing console designed for facilities with larger rooms, combining the feel of a large-format console with a level of control and added Pro Tools functionality that can only be accessed with an ICON system. For example, with ICON and Pro Tools HD
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software all your session data reside in a single file, making it simple to recall even the most complex projects in a matter of minutes. D-Control features built-in 7.1-channel panning, touch-sensitive controls, and lots of visual mixing feedback with LCD displays, LED rings, and bar graphs. There are six touch-sensitive, multi-purpose, rotary encoders per channel strip, each with a multi-colour LED ring, six-character alphanumeric multi-colour LCD display and three-colour automation indication LED. Each channel strip has a channel name display, 27 illuminated pushbuttons and a pair of 32-segment bargraph meters, and most of the mixer controls are located where you would expect them to be. There is a comprehensive central section with eight multicolor 32-segment bargraph meters that provides control over all processing functions and routing. This section has global automation capabilities, dedicated panels for EQ and dynamics control, and full studio and control room monitoring and communications facilities. The centrally located Focus Channel Strip includes an additional fader and there is an advanced Surround Panner option with an integrated touch screen and touch-sensitive joysticks. The base configuration has 16 channel strips, each with its own fader, and D-Control can be expanded to include up to 80 channel strips by adding 16-channel Fader Modules.
D-Control|ES D-Control|ES is an update to the D-Control worksurface with a new dark colour scheme option added to the original design. The updated text and graphics offer improved legibility in low light, brighter LCDs provide a wider viewing angle, and the improved switch colour layout makes the console easier to navigate and memorize. Digidesign is offering D-Control ES conversion kits that include all-new top panels (including new electronics, switches, encoders, and displays), silk screened metal plates, bolsters, and other cosmetic components to transform any older D-Control system into a D-Control ES. Kits may include an updated 100BASE-T Ethernet communications boards, power supplies, motor drive assemblies, and other electronic components, depending on your specific configuration. With the latest electronics, Pro Tools HD software’s Multi-Mode feature allows a single D-Control to access up to four Pro Tools|HD systems.
Figure A5.22 Digidesign ICON D-Control|ES.
ICON D-Command ICON D-Command, like D-Control, partners with the HD|Accel cards and XMON analogue monitoring and communications unit to form an integrated studio system. Like D-Control, D-Command employs an intuitive console layout and has an easily accessible, central control section with straightforward monitoring, and communications controls. With its compact size and powerful feature set, including dedicated EQ and dynamics editing sections, custom fader modes and touch-sensitive rotary controls, D-Command is ideal for smaller music or post-production studios. Figure A5.23 ICON D-Command.
D-Command has plenty of LCD displays, LED rings, and bar-graph meters to provide visual feedback. There are two touch-sensitive, multi-purpose rotary encoders per channel strip, each with a single-colour LED ring, a six-character alphanumeric LCD display, and a three-colour automation indication LED. Each channel strip also has a channel name display, fifteen illuminated pushbuttons and two 32-segment bargraph meters.
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Supplied as standard with eight channel faders, D-Command can be expanded to 24 faders by adding a 16-channel Fader Module. Figure A5.24 Expanded D-Command.
ICON D-Command|ES In the summer of 2008, Digidesign introduced the updated ICON D-Command|ES worksurface, featuring the same color scheme as its larger sibling, the D-Control ES, but in a compact design. This offers updated text and line art on the surface for better legibility – especially in low-light environments. Digidesign also introduced two special-offer D-Command ES bundles, each offering the latest ICON worksurface bundled with a powerful Pro Tools|HD system. Figure A5.25 D-Command ES.
XMON XMON, ICON’s remote, rack-mounted, analogue monitor, and communications system, allows monitoring of mono, stereo, surround, and various external sources. External inputs can be routed to main, near-field, or mini speaker
configurations. XMON also provides separate stereo Cue outputs, studio monitors outputs, and a dedicated engineer’s headphone output. Supplied as a 2U 19” rack-mountable unit, XMON uses a single 15-pin cable connection that enables this unit to be remotely positioned up to 80 feet away from the D-Control or D-Command control surface. The audio inputs and outputs use standard DB25 multi-pin connectors. There is also an External Talkback input, two Listenback inputs, an AFL stereo solo Input, and a stereo Mini Speakers AutoCue feature that allows automatic talkback or listenback while the transport is parked. Figure A5.26 XMON monitor system.
Used with D-Control, XMON can be used to monitor separate, simultaneous eight-channel mixes (7.1 surround) along with up to four external stereo sources. Used with D-Command, XMON can be used to monitor separate, simultaneous six-channel mixes (5.1 surround) along with up to three external stereo sources.
C|24 Control Surface The 24-channel Digidesign C|24 control surface provides direct hands-on control of Pro Tools mixing, recording, and editing, a complete array of highquality analog inputs, and a 5.1 analog monitor section to use with your Pro Tools I/O. Featuring a sleek, low-profile industrial design with stylish dark graphite color scheme, and a separate power supply to provide lower noise performance, the C|24 is a brand new design that replaces the Focusrite-built Control 24.
Pro Tools hardware
The C|24 has 24 bankable channel strips, each with a touch-sensitive, motorized fader and dedicated Mute, Solo, Select, Input, Record, EQ, Dynamics, Insert, Send, and Automation buttons. It also has 24 high-quality rotary encoders with LED rings. The 16 high-quality mic pre-amps are similar to those in the Digi 003, with low noise and good specifications. These have high-pass filters and variable input gain to allow direct mic, instrument, and line-level connections (via a DB25 multi-way connector) for recording through a Digidesign audio interface. Compared with the Control 24, the C|24 has more dedicated button controls on the channels along with easier-to-read, six-character, dual-row LED scribble strip displays that provide better visual feedback for channel names, plug-in parameters, sends, panning, and other editing functions. The C|24 has also has an eight-channel stereo line submixer that can be routed directly to the monitor section. The monitor section has main speakers, switchable modes, and a studio loudspeaker section that was not available on the Control 24. There are built-in talkback mic and inputs for remote talkback and listenback, and it also has trimmable analogue inputs and speaker outputs. Ideal for professional project studios, the C|24 is a significant improvement on its fore-runner, and makes a great choice for music studios, especially for recording bands.
Figure A5.27 C|24 control surface.
Digidesign Reference Monitor Series Digidesign’s Reference Monitor Series bi-amplified, near-field studio monitor designs, the compact RM1 and the larger RM2, were introduced in May 2007 priced at $1,249 for each RM1 and $1,749 for each RM2.
Figure A5.28 Reference Monitor Series RM1 and RM2.
Co-developed with the Professional Monitor Company (PMC), a leading professional monitor manufacturer based in the UK, these specially engineered monitors use PMC’s Advanced Transmission Line (ATL) technology to deliver
Pro Tools hardware
exceptional clarity and tonal accuracy, low distortion and accurate bass response, with a wide dynamic range. PMC’s ATL design combines sophisticated cabinet engineering, proprietary drive unit and crossover components, and patented absorption materials with claimed benefits over sealed and ported designs. Benefits include improved audio resolution with a higher sound pressure level, reduced distortion, flat frequency response, and deeper, more defined bass frequencies than other speaker designs of similar size. Both monitors have a 48-bit, fixed-point digital signal processing engine to manage the monitors’ complex frequency crossover, speaker positioning EQ settings, trim level, and Bass Port Emulation. With the Bass Port Emulation feature switched in, the monitors emulate the tonal characteristics associated with ported bass reflex speakers. With the Bass Port Emulation switched off, the frequency response is flat and free of any additional colouration. The two-way digital crossover features steep filter designs that ensure an exceptionally clean transition, with virtually zero phase shift, between the two drivers’ response curves and roll-off rates. The net result is the ideal transition between the high-frequency and low-frequency drivers as well as superb phase response over a wider listening window. The RM1 uses a 5.5-inch low/mid frequency driver with an 80-watt amplifier while the RM2 uses a 6.7-inch driver with a 100-watt amplifier. Both are twoway systems using 1-inch soft dome, ferrofluid-cooled high frequency drivers individually powered by 50-watt amplifiers. These specially designed Class D amplifiers provide an extremely accurate frequency response and use linear power supplies that provide twice the peak current headroom and much better noise isolation than typical switched mode designs. The rear panels of both RM1 and RM2 are practically identical. Each has a balanced XLR analogue input and an AES 3 digital XLR input that accepts 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz sample rates. An additional AES digital input and an AES digital THRU connector using RJ-45 connectors are also provided. There is an HF control adjustable from −4 dB to +3 dB in 0.5 dB increments and an LF control adjustable from −4 dB to +3 dB in 0.5 dB increments that allow the performance to be tailored to the room, to the speaker positions, and to the user’s preferences. A Channel Assign switch allows the user to select which incoming AES digital input channel (left or right) to use and a Bass Port emulation switch allows this feature to be turned on or off. A Gain Trim encoder is also provided to allow the user to set the input sensitivity from 0 dB to −15 dB.
Figure A5.29 RM1 rear view.
Digidesign’s RM1 and RM2 monitors are in the same league as similar models from Genelec and ATC, with advanced technical specifications that will help to deliver the highest quality results from any Pro Tools system.
Pro Tools hardware
Summary Digidesign offers a well-designed range of hardware to work with its software that allows professional users to put together systems to suit most types of professional recording situations. Whether you plan to mix ‘in the box’ or prefer the tactile control of the various work surfaces, there is a solution to match your needs. The integrated ICON systems are finding their way into many of the leading professional recording studios around the world while the C|24 control surface is gaining popularity in music project studios. Adding a pair of Digidesign Reference Monitors completes your studio system all the way from the mic preamplifiers to the mixes that you hear from the loudspeakers, making sure that the audio quality is never compromised along its path. © 2010 Mike Collins